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Embracing the enemy

May 13, 2013

Here’s a great idea…

In their book, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson say,

By the time a couple’s style of argument has escalated into shaming and blaming each other, the very purpose of their quarrels has shifted.  It is no longer an effort to solve a problem or even to get the other person to modify his or her behavior; it’s just to wound, to insult, to score” (p. 171).

In other words…

We can turn marriage into a war in which we try to injure our partners, labeling them the “enemy.” This is no way to generate closeness. Our challenge in relationships is to remember that we are on the same side with our partners. The enemies are the problems that assault us. Rather than see our partners as enemies to be defeated, we can see them as allies to help us defeat our common problems.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life…

When you start to feel irritated with something your partner has said or done, remember that your partner does things that make sense to her or him. When they don’t make sense to you, it means that you don’t understand your partner. Try this challenge: Next time you feel irritated, try to identify the enemy that bothers both of you. For example, if your partner is late, you might look at her or his schedule and see the enemy as overload or traffic or . . . When you take time to understand why your partner does things, you can defeat enemies together.

To find out more…

about couple relationships, check out The Marriage Garden or the Getting Our Hearts Right program at, follow us at or contact your local county Extension agent. You may also like to read Mistakes Were Made (but not by me).

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